“I find it difficult to think of myself as a migrant because I didn’t come to stay. It was temporary. I was going back”


Penny in the Drake University Yearbook

I started applying for scholarships to the United States. When I was in college my counselor suggested that I go into pharmacy and I didn’t know anything about it. I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor but I felt like I was being pulled into being a doctor, if fact, I very strongly said no I am not. I was drawn to that but I was selfish with my time. I said no also in part because you really have to have an education to go to med school. So pharmacy was suggested to me and I had no idea what it was. Pharmacy was an upcoming, new profession in India. I began applying to all the schools that offered scholarships and had pharmacy and Drake was one of them.

I think I’m just one of those lucky people who were at the right place at the right time. It was the first year that India had started their tourist bureau and they were interviewing college students because supposedly they wanted people who were knowledgeable and who would give the spirit of the coming of age of India, which I was all for. So I applied for it and got it! I was the youngest of the group and the director had a very paternal attitude to me. At the time we didn’t have buses but we had a taxi and the group was very intimate since it consisted of about 3 or 4 people and the director always made sure I had an older couple or something like that. We just kind of got to be friends. One of my tourists was the Blanks from Des Moines. I didn’t know who they were but they didn’t want to do the typical things on our tour. Mr. Blank was a firm distributor so I took him to some places they really wanted to go and we kind of formed a friendship. After they left India they decided they wanted to come back and Mrs. Blank wrote to me and of course I followed up. She told me a friend of hers was coming to Bombay and asked if I would be available.

When I was applying for scholarships my advisor asked me if I knew anybody that I could put down as a reference. With the Blanks in mind, I wrote them and said, “do you mind if I give your name?” I had no clue how important they were. They responded, “Yes! We would love to.” And still, nothing registered with me but I was dumbfounded with her response. I ended up getting a scholarship at Drake; a full tuition scholarship but didn’t include room and board so I told them I couldn’t afford to come. The following year Michigan Ann Arbor also had a full ride scholarship but my parents wanted me to be in Des Moines because they met the Blanks’ and felt more comfortable. After telling them I couldn’t afford Drake, the Blanks’ said, “oh no, we’ll help you with your room and board” and I thought, “if I could just get the first year then I’ll figure out how to pay for it.” My parents realized this was a great opportunity and said I had to go, but I didn’t want to go. I was going to use not being able to afford it as a reason not to come here to Drake. I know it was hard on my family because I was the youngest and my parents were very protective but they had to be very brave. I literally felt like I was thrown on a boat.

Life in the U.S.